BATON ROUGE - Every kid wants to be just like their parents, but LSU sophomore high jumper Abby O’Donoghue of Denham Springs took it to a new level.
O’Donoghue started participating in track and field as a sixth-grader because she wanted to be like her mother, the former Kelli Flynn, a former high jumper and heptathlete for LSU from 1991-94.
She’s been jumping ever since.
Fast-forward 10 years from that first track practice in sixth grade and O'Donoghue’s inching toward her mother’s collegiate high jumping records.
O’Donoghue captured the Southeastern Conference indoor championship two weeks ago, equaling her mother for No. 5 on LSU’s all-time indoor list at 5-feet-11 ½ inches (1.82m) en route to her first career SEC title. Her previous best was 5-11 1/4 (1.81m).
“I did not think I would be good at it,” said O’Donoghue, who competed this weekend in NCAA Indoor Championships in Birmingham, Ala. “It was kind of just something to do. About my sophomore year (at Denham Springs High School), I kind of thought, ‘Oh yeah, I could jump in college.'”
O’Donoghue captured multiple individual and team state titles – in both indoor and outdoor competition – during her time at Denham Springs High School, but she still never expected to be in her current position.
Kelli O’Donoghue coached Abby throughout high school, but Abby described herself as being “surprisingly good” at the high jump, even when she was younger.
“It was the best of both worlds,” Abby said. “It was awesome celebrating with your mom, but because she was my coach, we definitely butted heads a lot. I love my mom, but I love her not being my coach anymore. It’s good for us now that we’re not on the same team anymore. We have a good bond with track, so we do talk about it a lot, but it’s not our main relationship.”
O’Donoghue was a highly recruited athlete coming out of Denham Springs, but she always thought it would be cool to follow in her parents’ athletic footsteps, as her father also pitched for the Tigers under coach Skip Bertman from 1987-90.
“(My mom is) really proud,” O’Donoghue said. “I know we have this fun rivalry going on where she’s like, ‘Oh, I’m still better than you.’ It’s going to be great whenever I beat her. She does that, but I know she wants me to beat her.”
That’s what Abby is adamant about – beating her mom, even in a joking manner.
O’Donoghue knows her mother’s outdoor personal record is 6-feet ½ (No. 2 in LSU women’s outdoor), so she needs a 6’ ¾ clearance to surpass her mother’s mark, something she’s acutely aware of and what it will take to accomplish it.
“I definitely need to do that (PR) in order to do good for the team and for myself at nationals, but I just have to keep that mentality in mind,” O’Donoghue said. “It’s cool being a part of a team that you compete for individually. I like that aspect because I can worry about myself and focus on me. But I do like being a part of a team and helping contribute.”
As O’Donoghue nears the beginning of the outdoor season following the national indoor meet, she is working on some more technical aspects of her jumps.
A natural bound, or hop, during her stride has been a habit of since high school that has been hard to break.
“There’s definitely some things that I need to tweak, so I’m excited for outdoor (season),” O’Donoghue said. “In high school I definitely didn’t have the best technique and that’s kind of stuck with me as I was going through college. Right now, it’s a challenge for me to break those bad habits, so that’s my main focus.”
O’Donoghue said she felt locked in during the entire week leading up to SEC indoor championships and she hopes to maintain that same confidence through nationals and into the outdoor season.
She’s looking for consistency through her technical approach both in practice and in competition – the run, the lean, the strides and the actual approach itself, all of those things are important to a good high jump.
And while another personal record is definitely on her mind going into the weekend’s national championship meet, O’Donoghue is just doing what she needs to do in order to help LSU bring home a team championship.
“I think it’s a confidence booster that I’ve been so consistent at about 5’ 10 ¾”,” she said. “I’ve been focusing harder in practice because I know what’s best for this team and that was me qualifying for nationals and doing good at SECs. I just have to keep that mentality that I have to be successful for the team.”
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